Since Mother’s Day is almost upon us, I thought I’d share one of my all time favorite metaphors. Moms, let your spirits be encouraged today, and know that the foundation you lay now will stand for generations!
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
I’m invisible – The invisible Mom.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more.
“Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?”
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’
I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’
I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner,celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.
It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:
‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built,
and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man,
‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof?
No one will ever see it.’
And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime
because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
–Author Not Known
Spiderman whizzed past me in a blur. It was common to have several superheroes in my house. Spidey proudly stuck out his chest and slid into a pose just under the catwalk. At this very moment, my toddler, standing some 15 feet above us, pushed a 5lb. metal weight under the rail. I watched in terror as gravity pulled it through the air and it landed on my Spiderman’s head. He crouched to the ground in a ball. I could see the blood begin to push through the mask.
To say I hate medical emergencies is an understatement. Something happens to me when I see someone else hurt. I physically weaken and my insides freeze up. Marrying into a medical family is one of the biggest ironies of my life. 4 of the 5 people in my husband’s family of origin are in medicine. This is why I find it absurd that whenever medical emergencies arise, no one is around but ME.
I’ve had a sit down with God about this….because it keeps happening….and I’m at my threshold.
There have been two more head injuries in our family – both concussions – both severe. The most recent happened to my daughter – in CHOIR! Who knew choir was so dangerous? She fainted off of the top riser during a rehearsal and landed on her head. She hit so hard she went unconscious and had a seizure. I arrived at school to find my daughter surrounded by paramedics. As you can imagine, this is my worst nightmare.
OUT OF CONTROL.
This is what we are, Moms. We think we somehow get to map the route of our kids’ lives and watch them follow the well-thought path. But what happens when they take a detour, either by choice or by accident? What do we do then? What do we do when the course gets hijacked?
This question lingers as I watch my 14 yr. old daughter continue to suffer side effects of her fall. She can not play her beloved soccer for the immediate future. She is not supposed to engage in any activities that may overstimulate her brain, or cause her to brain to work too hard. The “hold” button has been pushed on her world.
Fear whispers in my ear. Will she ever get better? Will she be able to do what she loves? What if she goes back out and gets hurt even worse? How can we ever send her out to do anything again? My hands cover my face as doubt and confusion over very real and complex parenting decisions loom. They threaten to rob my joy. My gratitude. My strength.
He strides in and pushes past fear. Past hopelessness. Past doubt.
He speaks straight to my heart: ”Approach the throne of grace with confidence. Receive mercy. Find grace. I will help you in your time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
And He really does.
As I spend time sitting at His feet, He shows me that her story with Him is unfolding. The house of her testimony is being constructed brick by brick. He reveals to my precious daughter that identity found anywhere but Christ is shifting sand, unstable. And don’t I want her to learn? Oh yes, with all of my heart. Trial is a part of that process. But it hurts. Badly. For her and for me. Because a child does not suffer alone. A mother shares every bit of the pain.
My children’s stories are woven into the tapestry of my life in a thousand ways, and their pain is a bright red thread that runs a visible trail over the loom. And isn’t that the point? We take the detours together – trusting God to take care of course adjustments. Having faith that wherever we find ourselves, all things are working together for good.
And as we strengthen in courage and heart, we may find within each of us, something that looks a bit like a superhero.
Romans 8:28 (the message)
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.
He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
The woman, pearls strung around her graceful neck, spoke with certainty in her exotic South African accent.
“Boys need to get out their aggression. When mine got to a certain age, I bought each a pair of boxing gloves. When they would start fighting, I’d make them put on the gloves and go at it until they were done.” I sat, wide-eyed, starring at my then small boys. Would I really get to that place? I couldn’t imagine it then.
But I can imagine it now.
Fast forward 10 years. My kids have grown. Gone are the years of toy refereeing. Now we wrestle with something much worse: sibling needling.
I remember it well as a middle child. I would get so outsmarted by my sister that I’d have to resort to physical Hulk maneuvers to get out my frustration. She was all brains. I was all braun.
My own children are repeating the pattern. An older one needles, a younger, helpless in the battle of wits, erupts with force. It is an age old problem.
Gather individuals in the same house day after day, and there will be conflict.
The question becomes, what will we do about it?
I tell my kids over and over that their relationships with each other will last far beyond any other. Siblings are the only ones who see you through your entire life span – from the ground up. Invest in those relationships now, and they will bring you joy and life for years to come.
The articles and video I list below delve into why siblings may be struggling with one another. I’m going to focus instead on 5 creative techniques addressing sibling conflict:
1. The Hug o War:
Reminiscent of Shell Silverstein’s poem, have the two fighters hug for a minute. Most of the time they are laughing by the end. I’ve also heard of parents who make the two offenders wear an oversized T-shirt together until they stop fighting.
2. The Repentance Bench:
Pick a bench in the house. When sibs start the ruckus, sit them down on the bench together. No one gets up until they’ve worked out their issue and apologized.
3. Work Together:
Too much fighting? Then maybe there isn’t enough to do! Put them to work on a chore together.
4. Do Something Kind for the Other.
Help them to be for one another, not against. Have each person in the conflict do something kind, helpful, or generous for the one with whom he is fighting.
This is a personal favorite for my husband. Fighting or bickering? Go run together around the house ___ times. They are usually laughing and racing by the end.
And if all else fails, head down to the local sports store and buy a couple of sets of boxing gloves.
Recommended Articles for Further Reading:
8th grade P.E. class brought fresh revelation. We were instructed to run around the track one time. Returning to the starting line, one by one Mrs. McDonald put on 10lb. chain belt around our waists. ”Now run again!” she hollered.
The extra weight was surprisingly difficult to carry. We’d barely made it a quarter of the way around the track when people began to walk, stop, sit down even! The point was made. Extra weight slowed the journey and made it impossible to run freely.
Do you have any today? Any extra weight that is preventing you from soaring? I do. Some days mine comes in the form of fear. Other times a strained relationship. And on another, a parenting dilemma. Just ask and I’ll give you the flavor of the day!
We often grab onto our chains and clutch them tightly against us. This gives us a false sense of control. Forgetting that the weight is heavy, or even present, we wear it day after day.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28 (msg)
These are things I desire:
recovery, rest, grace, freedom, and lightness of heart.
And they can all be found by spending time with my Creator. When I am tired, worn out, burned out, HE is the answer. It really is that simple. Why do I make it so complicated? When I sit to open my Bible and heart to God, He shakes the chains from my white knuckle grip and bears the weight once so heavy. Weight preventing me from running my race.
And I walk freely. Lightly. All by keeping company with the one I call “Redeemer.”
There is a line in a song that keeps playing over and over in my head, “so I’ll shake off these heavy chains.” This visual is powerful to me. Close your eyes and listen. Whatever weighs you down today, open your heart and allow God to breathe new life into your weary soul.
There are some days where I feel like I can’t get my brain wrapped around all of the things that I have to do, but maybe even more, things I want to do. Things that really matter — like character development with my kids, time spent meditating on God and what He has for me that day, time with my husband, time to soak in important relationships with my family and friends. Anyone relate? It is a constant battle for me. The details of what’s for dinner, answering emails, picking up the house, laundry, laundry, laundry, sweep, sweep, dishes, appointments, practices, grocery shopping, and the days whooooooooooooosh by — one on top of the other.
If I’ve realized anything in my life, it is that two things consistently hijack my world:
1. failure to plan
2. putting the less important before the important (can I hear an AMEN please?).
When I was in college I took a backpacking class –because my love interest was the T.A. Our final exam was to go into the wilderness with a map and compass, and find our way from point A to point B. We had to forge rivers chest deep with full 60lb. packs on our backs, cut paths through rough game trails, and use the map and compass to navigate. Because we had planned well, our packs were filled with the essentials: a plastic bag lining our monster packs to keep out all water, warm/dry clothes, a sleeping bag and mat, tent, high energy snacks, and extra socks. Did I mention it was in November? Oh ya, it was…and in Washington’s Olympic Mountains…with newly fallen snow. But like I said, the love interest was involved, and I was willing to go through hell and high water…quite literally. We got lost, and it added another grueling 2000 feet to our climb, but eventually the compass led us in the right direction, and we arrived at our destination tired, cold, and proud.
Here are some lessons about preparing for an outdoor expedition that you can use when planning your life:
1. Put only those things in the pack that are the most important. Remember, you are carrying this weight around, hiking up elevation. Don’t put unnecessary weight in the pack that will slow your journey and keep you from being successful.
Do you plan your day so that the most important things are what take up the majority of your time? Do you have some dead weight you need to let go that is keeping you from being your best on the day’s trail?
2. Plan where you are going. Climbers, hikers, and trekkers never leave the trailhead without knowing exactly where they are going and how they will get there. They also have tools that will help them if they get lost.
What about you? Do you plan your days and weeks? or do they just “happen?”
Here is a tip I learned from John Maxwell’s book Today Matters:
Write out the 6 most important things you need to do every day and get those done. Start with #1, and don’t move on to #2 until #1 is done, then move down your list. This will keep you moving toward your overall destination.
3. Have the discipline to keep moving. Reaching a destination is hard work. It takes a certain amount of grit and resolve to keep moving.
Do the same. Tell yourself, “Keep Moving!” Remember that most things worth doing are a challenge. When you push on, with perseverance, the summit is closer with every step.
I never again saw those people in that class with me, but the T.A.? Well, he’s the man I walked the aisle with, so I guess every stroke through that icy water was worth it after all!
My senior year in college, email had just come out and people were wondering why in the world someone would send a message by computer instead of just calling on the land line phone. Oh, those were the days! Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and media as much as the next person, but I am also sobered by the staggering statistics on internet pornography. It is ripping families, marriages, and children to shreds, leaving a trail of destruction and addiction a mile long. After completing his dissertation on pornography and its effects, a pastor once told me that the addiction is stronger than cocaine in adolescents ages 11-14. Meaning, whatever happens in a young person’s brain upon seeing the pornographic images at that formative age has an even greater addictive affect than the actual drug.
Does anyone else feel physically sick to their stomach over this?
I have 3 sons. But statistics show that even my daughter is in great danger.
As a mother, it is hard to not let fear suffocate. Like the python who smothers its prey with constant, enveloping pressure, our kids can’t escape the barrage. It’s everywhere. When they turn on the computer to research for a school report, when the TV hits on a station that isn’t normally watched, when a kid at school pulls up an image on his phone, when someone SnapChats (sexts) our daughter.
Do you know that it isn’t enough to get a filtering program? EVERY device must be individually set to safety (phones, iPads, iPod touches, etc.) Just because you have Net Nanny on the computer, that doesn’t mean it filters your devices. Did I say everywhere?
E. V. E. R. Y. W. H. E. R. E.
I’m going to put it bluntly: If you do not have a filter on your computer, or have not enabled safety features on your child’s or the family’s mobile or iPad, you are stepping aside and allowing pornography to step through the door and make itself at home.
See the statistics yourself. This document was created by The United Families International Blog:
Do you feel helpless when you look at these? I do. But let’s not put in our heads in the sand and pretend it will never enter our home, because statistics show that it will affect us on some level. It isn’t a question of if, but when. It’s time to get offensive, and come up with our game plan. Let’s not react, but aggressively tackle this battle. I can’t change society, but I can impact my sphere. I can do everything I can to filter what comes into our home, and what is available on our media.
Here are some things we have done:
*Put Net Nanny on all of our computers
*Turned Safari off on the iPad, and put a lock code on it
*Put a passcode on our phones
*Created a password for our Cable TV and Netflix (no one can watch anything, or change the channel without the passcode)
*We have the passwords and codes for cell phones & media accounts of our kids.
*My daughter must “turn in” her cell phone by 9:30pm
*When our kids turn age 9, we take them on a special weekend and begin teaching them about God’s design for sex vs. the world’s
These are not listed to tell you that I think you should do the same, but to help you think through the various places kids would have access to inappropriate material.
Here are warning signs that your child may be viewing pornography.
Taken from www.xxxchurch.com, an incredible resource in this area:
Your child may be viewing pornography if:
- You notice that they are showing signs of premature sexual activity or an unusual curiosity about sexuality.
- You notice your child using suggestive terms or suddenly dressing more provocatively.
- There are increased pop-ups, spam messages, viruses, or other inappropriate content on your family computer.
- Your child has erased the computer’s history, if they change the computer screen quickly or become increasingly defensive or secretive, it’s time to have a conversation.
Another list that reveals warning signs for husbands: Possible Warning Signs of a Loved One’s Pornography Addiction
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Increased demand for privacy or isolation
- Problems with school, work, or personal relationships
- Spending excessive amounts of time on the internet
- Sacrificing other activities such as sleep, work, or time with the family in order to be online
- Evidence of lying or excessive spending
- Personality changes, irritability, or irregular mood swings
- Loss of interest in sex with spouse
- Declining investment in personal and family life
- Evidence of pornographic websites visited on the computer
- Ignoring responsibilities
- Secrecy or feelings of guilt
Communication is Critical
Communication is vitally important when educating our kids about the dangers of pornography.
Let’s not just say “NO.” Let’s make sure our kids know WHY it’s “NO.” And then let’s offer them some healthy education on sex. Culture is talking about sex all over the place, sending our kids message after message. Rise up parents. Rise up church. It’s time to get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable.
Here are a few resources that offer God centered sex education:
God’s Design for Sex Series for Kids
Passport to Purity Weekend Retreat for a Parent and Child
Having the Talk (includes what to say at various ages)
My youngest child is in his final days of kindergarten. I am so torn. Watching him grow up is so much fun, and yet letting go of the young years of parenting is HARD. He’s my baby, so with him lies the “last time” of everything. If you ever want to read a children’s book about that concept that will have you wracked with sobs by the end, read “Let Me Hold You Longer” by Karen Kingsbury. The book drives home the point that we need to hold on to our kids’ moments, because it may be the last time they ever do that particular thing, and that season will become only a memory. Right now my kindergartener still hangs on my legs and pretends like he is a koala bear. He throws his arms around me in the morning with reckless abandon. We snuggle on the couch and sound out words. One day, he will be a completely independent reader and won’t need me by his side to read, he’ll think acting like a koala bear is too silly, and his morning enthusiasm will lessen. I know this well, as my daughter is 13, and I have watched the transformation in her. With the last one, parents realize it passes too quickly and without warning. So for now, I will take in these last days of kindergarten, soaking in every ounce, cherishing these “lasts.”
Here are some things I have LOVED about Stet’s Kindergarten year….
Life is meant to be lived in community. We are most fulfilled when relationships around us are meaningful, healthy, and loving. The special people we surround ourselves with are our traveling companions — joy for our journey through this world. Learning to pick these people wisely is important, for these will be the ones who help send us into flight, or clip our wings. Ecclesiastes tells us these people help us succeed in life. It means they actually desire success on our behalf.
I so want to be that for others on their journeys — to be a good traveling companion — especially to those who dwell under my own roof, and with whom I see regularly. I know I fail. I know I neglect things I shouldn’t, or do things that I shouldn’t. My sinful nature prevents me from traveling well with others more than I’d like, but this can’t and shouldn’t stop me from trying. In the midst of brokenness, I can choose TODAY to blow wind into the wings of those around me: my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, even the people I brush up against in my coming and going. It’s a decision I get to make…or not make.
“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) What? Did you get that? THE SAME as Jesus. I know…. it makes me squirm too. HOW, in heaven’s name?!?! The answer I’ve come to in processing this is one decision at a time. For this moment, I choose a gentle answer instead of anger. In this situation I choose silence over saying something damaging. Instead of just thinking something kind, I say it out loud to the person next to me. I choose forgiveness over holding short accounts. We have to take small steps and pray that in those daily decisions, God will reap bountiful harvest in our hearts and relationships. What makes traveling so rewarding is the journey – -one I hope to get better and better at over time.
Have you ever had the sinking feeling that you just said or did something, as a parent, that has hurt the heart or spirit of one of your children? I had that happen the other day. It wasn’t that I meant to hurt her, or that it was intentional… it just happened. The product of carelessness. I didn’t say anything directly, but I asked an off-hand question jokingly that communicated a message to her. We can brush these off, but I really don’t believe that brings any kind of true peace — for the parent or child. I have found the only way to navigate those not-so-shining parenting moments is through humility. I told my daughter before bed that I had been careless with my words — it was a bad joke, and I asked her if she would forgive me. She said she would. I’m always amazed at how quickly my kids forgive. They respond to a humble spirit, and it allows me to point to Christ as the One who gives grace, who authors forgiveness, and who reconciles. My children see that I am not perfect, that I need forgiveness, and that I am continually on a journey. I want them to know the “real,” not the “fake,”the authentic, even if it means we have to sit in the mud for a while.
It hurts my heart when I make a mistake with one of my children. I work hard to build them up, to encourage who they are, to make sure they know that God directs their path and has a plan for their life. Then I somehow tear that down in a moment through a spoken word. OUCH. It is no wonder the Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that the tongue can bring “life or death,” or that is says in Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.”
We have a choice as parents, we can bring life to our children through our words, or death. Do we take the time to even think about what we are saying? Do we weigh our words carefully, often choosing to remain silent instead of saying how we feel in the moment? Do we fully comprehend the impact our words have on these little hearts in our care? I know for a fact that I could be doing so much more to breathe life. Sometimes it takes a concrete reminder. I know people who put 5 rocks in their pocket. By the end of the day, the goal is to give 5 encouragements and have all of the rocks in the other pocket. Whatever it takes, let us do what we need to be moms and dads who are speak life-giving words. Here are some specific ideas below taken from an article by Karen Stephens.
Here are a few more of my own: